Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
6 August 2019
Greg Kandra

In this image from February, Syriac Catholic Archbishop Yohanna Moshe of Mosul, Iraq, center, concelebrates the liturgy at St. Thomas Syriac Catholic Church in the old city of Mosul. Five years after the invasion of ISIS, many Iraqis are still struggling to recover and rebuild their homes and their churches. (photo: CNS/Khalid al-Mousily, Reuters)

Today, 6 August, marks the five-year anniversary of the assault of ISIS on the Nineveh Plain. Thousands of Iraqi Christians were displaced — many literally running for their lives.

Last fall, we published a letter from one woman, describing the challenges she and her family faced:

I have to admit that, spiritually, I have passed through some difficult times. I questioned God many times, wondering, “How is it possible that he has abandoned us?” But after all those moments of fear, I have finally surrendered my life and my fate to God.

My mother taught me how to live my faith, how to face crises and adapt to change. She taught me how to synchronize my hands and my mind to achieve my goals. Thanks to the image of my mother and her encouraging whispers that have accompanied and guided me in such difficult times, my hope in God has become so strong that now I live it in every single detail of my life. And now, again, I take this opportunity and this experience to pass it on to my children.

Following our return to our homes in a liberated Qaraqosh in September 2017, our joy was mixed with pain and bitterness. Our beloved home was gutted by fire and our fields were destroyed, but yet our joy was unbelievable; we were home! We were back in the home of our forefathers, our pride!

But the initial excitement subsided as the brutal reality hit us. At the beginning, Qaraqosh — once a city of 50,000 inhabitants — was like a ghost town, very few people returned to live amid the destruction. It was hard to walk around and see the ruins everywhere. The path of destruction included schools, churches, hospitals, factories and houses. But we thought it was necessary to return home, where we could work and support ourselves. Since our house is uninhabitable, we have rented an apartment. My husband and his brothers have returned to the fields to revive them for planting. As for me, I found a temporary job in the power company and in the evenings I provide tutoring for extra income to help my husband and my family to rebuild our home.

The situation is improving now, and life is returning, but slowly. The return of the churches, of our priests and sisters, and the opening of our schools is encouraging us to have some confidence and hope for a better future.

It is a future many fervently await and pray for. June’s installation of a Syriac Catholic Auxiliary Bishop, Nizar Semaan, was seen as a significant step for the people of Iraq:

While touring Qaraqosh before his installation, the new bishop said he was struck by how, in two years, the community was able to rebuild again, citing as evidence numerous homes, shops and restaurants.

“It’s kind of like a miracle,” he said. “This is a sign of hope, really.”

Hope is often hard to come by in an Iraq where people still struggle to rebuild their homes and churches. But they are blessed with an abundant faith and deep love for their homeland — along with the support of many around the world who will not let them be forgotten. Please remember the people of Iraq in your prayers as they continue their long journey back.

Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians ISIS